- Neighborhood Challenge: The European Union and Its Neighbors
Neighborhood Challenge is a compilation of eighteen essays on European Union relations with neighboring countries. The essays are grouped in four major sections: the Western Balkans, the Middle East, Russia and the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), and Turkey. The editors and a number of the other authors are Turkish scholars, which accounts for the title of the final section, "Turkey: Bridge to the Neighborhood?" Each of the essays begins with a description of the region or country involved, considers the current problems facing the region, and then discusses the interchange between the region and the EU.
Neighborhood Challenge should not be confused with the European Neighborhood Policy (ENP), which was issued by the EU in 2004. The aim of the ENP, according to editor Birgul Demirtas-Coskun, is to establish "a ring of friends around the borders of the new enlarged EU." This book applies to countries close to or bordering the EU but not part of the ENP. Some, like the Croatia and Turkey, are at some point in the process of accession to the EU. Others have expressed interest in joining. Neighborhood Challenge also focuses on relations with countries that are not immediate neighbors, such as those in Central Asia and the Middle East as well as Russia and other nations once part of the former Soviet Union. The various authors all note that these nations are important to the security of EU member states, and they argue that more attention should be paid to them.
Several themes emerge in almost all the essays. First, the authors note that the EU has a fundamental organizational problem in the foreign policy field. There is a formal Common Foreign and Security Policy, which is administered by the EU Commission, but unified policy on any given issue frequently is affected by national interests of members. This, say the authors, is particularly true of the largest original EU members, such as Germany, France, and the UK. Second, foreign policy is affected by a plethora of EU entities that work on various aspects of relations with neighboring countries. These entities include committees, conferences, special representatives, economic assistance programs, and so forth. The result is that there are many strands of policy on the EU side, making it difficult for their regional neighbors and security-related associates to deal with a unified EU. [End Page 123]
Many of the authors complain that working with the EU is a one-way process: EU representatives dominate interchanges, insisting on policies that benefit the EU to the disadvantage of their partners. References to the Barcelona Process (since 2008, the Union for the Mediterranean) describing EU relations with nonmembers on the Mediterranean littoral—which are part of the ENP but are mentioned in spite of this—make a special point in this regard. Problems also frequently arise from the EU's insistence on promoting democracy, human rights, media freedom, and other sensitive issues, which the "partners" consider to be domestic issues.
All of the essays concede that the EU has had more success on economic cooperation than in other arenas. The union has provided economic assistance to many of the affected countries and is important in trade relations as well. One of the important economic issues discussed in connection with EU relations with the countries of the Middle East and Central Asia is the EU's need to achieve energy security, in light of the difficulties experienced with Russia, the main supplier of hydrocarbons.
The main conclusion of most of the essays is that the EU has not so far been very effective in dealing with political issues with its non-ENP "neighbors"—for all of the reasons mentioned above. The essays in Neighborhood Challenge that refer to EU relations with the various regions provide an excellent description of conditions in the countries and their relations with the EU and an evaluation of the...